This morning is gloriously beautiful–a temperate, sunny day in October here in New England. While reading the morning New York Times and drinking my coffee, I read about the Matisse exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern Art. Half a million people viewed the exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London.
This phase of Matisse’s creativity came late in his life after a series of setbacks. His wife of forty years left him and legally cut off their marriage. He had abdominal cancer and endured surgery that made him a semi-invalid, bed-ridden for the rest of his life. Due to the War, he lost his apartment in Nice and moved to a temporary place in Vence, a town nearby. This is the setting for making collages out of paper cutouts, almost sculptural and filled with color. They are so uplifting to view that one wonders how he got these ideas and where he came up with the hues of paint he had his assistants apply to paper, pin up, move around and generally serve as cogs in a slow-moving artistic process.
The NYTimes and others labeled this “late style” to commemorate a burst of creativity late in life, Matisse having died at the age of 84 in 1954. As you know, I’ve thought a bit about how to continue to be creative as one ages. The only thing to fear is lack of time. Or, that you’ve just been daydreaming about things all your life and unable to carry out the kind of creative life that you wanted for yourself.
On a much more mundane level, one of our projects lately has been to put together a book of G.’s photographs of the ocean, taken at different locations in Rockport, MA. where we rented a cottage in the winter and in Truro in Cape Cod before a huge storm changed the actual configuration of the beach. An extension of the photo book idea is to enlarge some of the photos and mount them on the three-story stairwell of our Queen Anne Victorian house, rebuilt by G. over the last three decades. A few years ago, I had a Rockport seascape blown up (about 3 X 6 feet) which currently hangs on the second floor landing wall. Why not create a seascape gallery going all the way up the stairs, we asked ourselves at breakfast this morning?
A brief online search turned up all kinds of possibilities for blowing up images: prints on paper, laminated, on poster board, on canvas, and so on. As for me, I carried out a major clean-out of our sitting area yesterday. I washed an antique hooked mat that lives on the red-painted stand beside the sofa. We tried out various table arrangements and settled for one close to what we already had except that I put all the detritus that pebbled all of the surfaces into small boxes so that we could actually see the tables! It’s amazing what clutter does to the eye. And what the absence of clutter does for the soul. Honestly, I’m not kidding.
I also applied a coat of dry wax to our new soapstone counter. There were also a couple of other repairs we made yesterday, like replacing a three-way switch to an old marble lamp we had that now provides a new level of light in the room at night; and mounting a cherry Shaker door to an old shelf to hide miscellany that would otherwise spill out onto the counter: teabags, aspirin, vitamins, etc. These may not sound like Matisse, but they’re very economical and pleasing fixes for the way things were. A pottery lamp that I bought thirty years ago had broken into two pieces and sat downstairs waiting to be repaired. Yesterday, with the help of three pairs of hands, it was put together again with superglue, better than Humpty Dumpty! So now we have double the amount of illumination than we had before–and at barely any expense. The place is so de-cluttered now that it’s hard to believe that we actually live here. I am still making my way through sorting out the stuff in the cardboard boxes but at least they’re out of sight, if not out of mind.
Each day as we wake up to such fine weather, we know how we lucky we are to be living together and sharing our lives. This appreciation is in sharp contrast to Republican doom and gloom that everything has already slid into a hand basket on its way to Hell. And even as the newscasters dumb down their nightly broadcasts into a replica of People Magazine (especially David Muir on ABC), try getting a parking space at the mall (which I don’t go to very often,) where it is mobbed with so many affluent shoppers at Nordstrom’s that they can’t all fit on the elevators. The Apple store is usually mobbed and the sushi open restaurant is pretty full as well.
So where was I? Oh, yes: “late-style.” Well, we can make of our lives whether we think it’s late or not. Thirty-somethings might even think it’s “late” for them. Little do they know once they get to be our age that “late” is a relative term. Today is my husband, G.’s birthday and it happens to fall on the same day as his mother’s — who lives across the street from us. Gram will be ninety-six today and so we will celebrate with a bevy of birthday cards (the most preferred vehicle of good wishes with a dollar for each birthday year) and some birthday cake tonight. How’s that for some “late-style” activity?